The best foods and minerals for healthy hair
If you’ve been clocking one too many late nights, you may have noticed that your once lustrous locks have become increasingly brittle and dry. To add insult to injury, it’s also normal to lose more hair than usual when stress levels are high.
Mitigate the damage by eating the right foods to nourish your strands. Eileen Lee, a certified nutritionist and trainer at DrHair, shares her recommendations on the best minerals to eat for strong, healthy hair plus where to get them.
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As hair is made of protein, ensuring you have enough protein in your diet is crucial for making hair strong and healthy. If you are not consuming enough protein in your diet, your hair is likely to become dry, brittle and weak. Extremely low protein diets may result in hair loss.
What to eat: Choose chicken, turkey, fish, dairy products and eggs as excellent sources of protein. For vegetarian options, pick legumes and nuts.
Iron is an especially important mineral for hair. Having too little iron (anaemia) is a major cause of hair loss. The hair follicle and root are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. When iron levels (serum ferritin) fall below a certain point, you may experience anaemia. This disrupts the nutrient supply to the follicle, affecting the hair growth cycle which may result in shedding.
What to eat: Choose red meat, chicken and fish. For vegetarian options, pick lentils, spinach and other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and salad greens.
Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron so foods high in vitamin C are good to eat in conjunction with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and is used readily by the body. It also helps in the production of collagen that strengthens the capillaries that supply nutrients to the hair shafts.
What to eat: The best sources of vitamin C are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
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Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that our body cannot make itself, and therefore must be obtained through our diet. Omega-3s are found in the cells that line the scalp and also provide the oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated.
What to eat: Find it in oily fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, trout and mackerel. Plant sources of omega-3 include avocado, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance created by our hair’s sebaceous glands and provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. Without sebum, we may experience an itchy scalp and dry hair.
What to eat: Orange or yellow-coloured vegetables that are high in beta-carotene (which makes vitamin A) such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
Zinc and selenium
Scalp protection involves other important minerals such as zinc and selenium. A lack of either can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp.
What to eat: Fortified cereals and whole grains are a good source of zinc. You can find selenium in oysters, beef and eggs.
The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin, so ensure you eat foods rich in vitamin E to provide adequate protection for your hair.
What to eat: Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, providing zinc and selenium as well as vitamin E so try to include them as part of a balanced diet.
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Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin. Too little biotin can cause hair to be weak and brittle, and this may lead to hair loss.
What to eat: Biotin-rich foods include whole grains, liver, egg yolk, soy flour and yeast.
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